The Cariboo Cougars have played just two league games in the past month, but that's about to change as they begin the stretch drive in the B.C. Major Midget League this weekend with a pair of games against the Thompson Blazers.
Cougars head coach Bryan MacLean said the light schedule to start 2014 has given the team a chance to rest injured players and regroup in advance of the playoff push.
"It's been a good month, we've been at home and we've been able to rest and relax and get our heads in the right space," he said.
The break between games has also given the coaches a chance to work on a few things they feel need to be improved during the closing weeks of the regular season.
First up are the Blazers who are near the bottom of the BCMML standings with a 4-18-6 record, 10 points behind the 11-15-2 Cougars. But MacLean knows they can't take the visitors lightly as the Blazers have been playing better in recent weeks.
"They've won three games in the last little while, including one against the [Vancouver] Chiefs last weekend," the coach said. "They're doing things the right way right now and playing spoiler a little bit."
The Cougars enter the weekend in seventh place in the standings, but are just one point behind the North Island Silvertips with two games in hand.
Over the next four weeks the Cougars will play eight games against teams in the bottom half of the standings. Win those and they'll have a chance to climb the ladder, but stumbling could cost them a playoff spot.
As the Cougars play teams for a second time this year, MacLean and the coaching staff can use the video they shot earlier in the season to get players ready for what to expect. And MacLean thinks his team is ready to put those lessons into action this weekend as the teams meet twice at the CN Centre. Saturday's game is set for 4:15 p.m. and the rematch on Sunday is scheduled for 10 a.m.
"If we play the way we want to play the way we want to play and get to it early and do it for 120 minutes, I think we're going to like where we're at, at the end of the day," he said.
Last Updated on Friday, 24 January 2014 08:05
Four members of the Cariboo Cougars participated in the annual BC Major Midget All-star game Friday night. Forward Jesse Roach and General Manager Trevor Sprague were a part of Team Blue. Steven Jandric and Bryan Allbee suited up for Team White. While Jandric was the only one to get on the score sheet with an assist. Team Blue would prevail 8-6. The Cats are off this weekend, but will return to action next weekend when they host the Thompson Blazers.
Last Updated on Saturday, 18 January 2014 06:05
Heading into the season, Cariboo Cougars forward Jesse Roach wasn't quite sure how his game would adjust to the B.C. Major Midget League.
As it turns out, the big forward from Quesnel had nothing to worry about. Not only does he lead the Cougars in scoring this year, Roach is also one of four Cariboo representatives who will be heading to Langley on Friday night for the league's annual all-star game.
"It's definitely a privilege, it was one of the goals I set for myself at the start of the year," Roach said of the all-star appearance.
He'll be joined on the ice by linemate Steven Jandric and defenceman Bryan Allbee. General manger Trevor Sprague rounds out the Cariboo contingent and will be making his seventh straight appearance at the game in a coaching or managerial role.
Roach will be wearing Team Blue's colours when the puck drops and will be up against both Jandric and Allbee who have been selected for Team White.
"It will definitely be fun to play against some of the guys on the team," Roach said.
He's looking forward to the game and maybe picking up a few things from his all-star teammates that he can apply to his game with the Cougars.
At six-foot-four and 191 pounds, Roach is one of the more imposing players on the Cariboo roster. He said he aims to play a power forward style game to go along with his finishing ability around the net. In 28 games this season he has 15 goals and 22 assists.
Many of those points have come playing alongside fellow all-star Jandric.
"He's definitely a great player and fun to play with," he said. "I know he can put the puck in the net."
While there may have been some uncertainty joining his new team this year, Roach said making the jump to major midget this year was made a little bit easier thanks to his Western Hockey League training camp experience.
"I thought it would be a lot more difficult to adjust to the league, but going to Vancouver's training camp this summer really helped me," he said.
Roach's play has picked up and he proved that by being named the Cariboo Cougars player of the month for December and was a runner up for the BC Major Midget Player of the Month. He hopes to keep up his solid all-star play the rest of the season.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 January 2014 19:07
The Vancouver North East Chiefs earned a weekend split against the Cariboo Cougars on Sunday with a 5-3 win at the Prince George Coliseum in B.C. Major Midget League action.
Chase Dubois scored twice for the Cougars in the third to draw the home team even at 3-3, but a goal by Matthew Hermary with just over three minutes to go put the Chiefs ahead for good. Connor Burk sealed the win with an empty-net goal with five seconds to play.
Jesse Roach scored the other goal for the Cougars who move to 11-15-2, while Burk, Lucas Johansen and Kris Zlomisli also scored for the Chiefs who are 14-10-4 on the year.
With the Cougars down 3-1, Dubois got Cariboo back within one on a nice individual effort stealing a cross-ice pass and beating Chiefs goalie Adam Derochie. He got his second minutes later banging home a Roach rebound.
For the second day in a row the Cougars successfully killed off a lengthy 5-on-3 disadvantage, this time only conceding one shot against in a minute and a half in an early second period two man disadvantage.
Roach got the Cougars on the board in the power play just over six minutes into the second. Standing on the doorstep of the crease he took a perfect pass from the point by Carson Stephen and redirected past Derochie. Colton Thomas, who often mans the other point on the power play, also got an assist.
The Chiefs re-took the lead on a power play goal of their own as Burk whistled a shot from the point off the cross-bar and in. Parker Colley had the lone assist as the Chiefs took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.
Zlomisli tipped home a Jeff Wong shot just over a minutes into the third to make it 3-1.
The Chiefs controlled the play in the early part of the first period and struck first with Johansen scoring his second of the weekend just two and half minutes into the game set up by Lucas Santucci.
The Cougars best chance in the first period came on a two-on-one break as Thomas Webster and Dallas Goodwin led the rush, but they were unable to beat Derochie.
Vancouver jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead on the shot counter, but the Cougars clawed back to make it 14-9 after one period.
Lane Delfs, who played both games for the Cougars this weekend, made 23 saves, while Derochie blocked 28 pucks.
The Cougars were 5-3 winners on Saturday afternoon.
The Cougars have next weekend off before they host the Thompson Blazers on Jan. 25 and 26 at CN Centre.
Last Updated on Sunday, 12 January 2014 20:31
Mitch Williams scored twice and had two assists on Saturday as the Cariboo Cougars defeated the Vancouver North East Chiefs 5-3 at the Prince George Coliseum in B.C. Major Midget League action.
Aggressive forechecking Williams and his linemates generated turnovers all afternoon which led directly to two goals. Dallas Goodwin scored a pair for the Cougars and Colton Thomas added another tally. Thomas Webster and Carson Stephens chipped in with a pair of assists each.
Connor Burk replied with a pair for the Chiefs and Lucas Johansen also scored.
With Cougars leading 3-1 after 40 minutes, Goodwin scored his second of the game off a blast from the top of the face-off circle early in the third set up by Williams and Stephens.
Johansen got one back for the Chiefs to make it 4-2, but Williams put the game away with his second of the game on the power play with under four minutes to play.
Burk scored late to bring the Chiefs back within two, but that's as close as they would get.
Thomas gave the Cougars a 3-1 lead midway through the second period when he took a pass from Williams after a Chiefs turnover deep in the Vancouver end.
Cariboo was on their heels in the later stages of the period, taking three penalties for illegal hits - two boarding infractions and one cross-checking call - which gave the visitors over a minute and a half of 5-on-3 time. Cariboo defended it well and Lane Delfs came up with some timely saves to keep the Chiefs at bay.
The Cougars got on the board first in the opening period as Williams forced yet another turnover and quickly converted it into an unassisted goal.
Each team also benefited from and odd bounce in the first period. First it was Burk who fired a puck from a sharp angle and it bounced off Delfs and in.
But the Cougars caught their own break later in the stanza when Dallas Goodwin scored off a broken play in front of the net. Thomas Webster and Zach Smith got the assists.
Shortly after the Cougars second goal Adam Derochie relieved Chiefs starting goalie Jakob Severson. Delfs went the distance for the Cougars making 23 saves. The Cougars directed 32 shots on the two Chiefs goalies.
The Cougars and Chiefs complete the weekend set at the Coliseum at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
Last Updated on Sunday, 12 January 2014 00:53